Joint Information Systems Committee
Non-formula funding (NFF) of Specialised Research Collections Initiative
Survey of needs
This report was originally prepared in August 1997 and in this revised form, incorporating additional analysis, in January 1998.
1.2 Terms of reference
2.1 Institutions to be included
2.2 Information to be collected
2.3 Survey procedure and questionnaire design
2.4 Pilot study
2.5 Dispatch and follow-up of questionnaire
3.1 Response rates
3.2 Contents of the archives
3.3 Cataloguing and listing
3.7 Staff accommodation
3.8 Reading room accommodation
3.9 Use: reader visits, enquiries and production units delivered
3.10 Perceived priorities
3.11 Comments from respondents
4.6 Accommodation for staff and users
4.7 Factors limiting use
8.1 Institutions included in the detailed analysis
8.2 Institutions not included in the detailed analysis
A postal questionnaire survey was carried out in July-August 1997 of holdings of archives in UK higher education institutions, excluding the institutions' own archives that had been surveyed previously.
185 questionnaires were returned out of a possible 291, an overall response rate of 64%. For those institutions directly funded by funding body supported higher education institutions (FB HEIs), and which were also listed in British Archives as holding non-institutional archives, the response rate was 96 out of a possible 110, or 87.3%. This report is based on the 128 returned questionnaires that gave details of archives within the scope of the survey.
The main conclusions were as follows:
Holdings and accommodation
- The total archival holdings in the institutions surveyed (excluding their own institutional archives) amounted to 88,451 linear metres of shelf space, and this has grown by 15,700 linear metres in the past 5 years, a compound growth rate of 3.3% per annum.
- Storage space is seriously lacking, stores being on average 87% full. At the present growth rate they will be 100% full in just over 4 years' time; some are full or overfull already. Only 55% of archival material is stored in an environment with monitored and stable temperature and humidity; and environmental control is seen as the priority for improvement of storage facilities. Storage is often shared with library material, and combined archive and "special collections" departments are common..
- Many archive reading areas are shared with library special collections reading rooms. The average reading room floor area per reader place was 5.9 m2, and most working surfaces were in the range 0.5 m2 to 1.0 m2 per place. These are generally in accordance with Society of Archivists' guidelines, though there were some shortfalls.
Cataloguing and indexing
- Only 52.5% of holdings are catalogued at "file level", i.e. approximately the level of the units produced for consultation by archive users, and 32.4% of holdings were catalogued at "item level". These two figures are not mutually exclusive so the amount catalogued at either level or both is in the range from 52.5% to 84.9%. There is not a statistically significant correlation between the proportions reported as catalogued and the existence of professional staff, but this does not take account of the quality of the cataloguing work.
- The application of cataloguing standards is still very uneven, with over 60% of holdings catalogued according to local standards. As the national and international standards developed from the best pre-existing practice, these local standards may be quite satisfactory. The amount catalogued in accordance with ISAD(G) is 5.7%, and this standard is being used by 21 out of the 128 institutions surveyed.
- Many institutions use word processing software to prepare their catalogues and finding aids, and as they are thus in machine-readable form they could be made available on the Internet as text files, though this would require significant work by archival and computer staff. The files might need to be substantially restructured before it was possible to apply full tagging such as SGML to provide adequate formatting and retrieval functions.
- To provide detailed and specific access by names, places and subjects will require substantial indexing work. Only about 7% to 30% of material has been indexed fully, depending on level. Standards for indexing are not yet widely used and many different systems have been applied.
- About 10% of holdings are in need of urgent conservation treatment for their preservation; 10% should be copied to preserve their content; 30 % should be treated for long-term preservation, but not urgently, 30% are stable and not in need of treatment; and 20% have not been assessed. Only 20% of the holdings have been assessed by an archival conservator in arriving at these figures.
- There is no relationship evident between the percentage of material in each state of conservation and the size of holdings of an institution.
- Of the institutions included in the analysis, 39% have no permanent professional archives staff, and a further 44% have one full-time equivalent or less. In 1992, 18% of institutions had some temporary professional archives staff; by 1997 this had risen to 42%..
- The main factor limiting use was a lack of staff; there were concerns that archives would not be able to maintain services once currently-employed temporary staff on project funding were withdrawn. More staff would be able to maintain and improve the documentation and promotion of the collections, these being the next two most important limiting factors.
- There is a significant positive correlation between the presence of professional archives staff and the existence of a written acquisition and disposal policy.
The background statement provided by the JISC monitoring programme for the Specialised Research Collections in the Humanities initiative reads as follows:
"In 1994 the Higher Education Funding Bodies of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland invited submissions for non-recurring and recurring non-formula funding of specialised research collections in the humanities following the Follett Review of Academic Libraries which reported in December 1993. A joint panel was established under the chairmanship of Professor Martin Harris to establish the criteria for funding and, after evaluating submissions, to make recommendations for funding.
In keeping with the panel's recommendations funding was focused in the areas of conservation, cataloguing of collections (in a format suitable for access over the network) and preservation. Recurring funding was also made available for enhancing access to collections through publicity for or development of the collections or support for user-related services. Funding was made available on condition that institutions honoured commitments to provide access to collections for external researchers on the same conditions as applied to researchers within the institution and that the collections being funded were of importance to research.
A project co-ordinator was appointed to oversee the programme in October 1995 and subsequently the Humanities NFF Committee and the Archives Sub-committee were set up to monitor the progress on the projects and to make recommendations on additional activities. As part of the work of the Archives Sub-Committee it has been agreed that a survey of cataloguing, conservation and preservation needs should be undertaken."
A survey of higher education institutions' own institutional archives had been carried out earlier in 1997 by TFPL Ltd., but the report was not available in time to be taken account of in this survey. At the same time as this survey, the Public Record Office was working on a "Mapping Project" to survey levels of provision in local archive services throughout England and Wales.
- To gain an overview of the proportion of holdings for which:
- there is no existing catalogue;
- catalogues are generally inadequate;
- only a summary catalogue exists.
- To gain an overview of the average volume of new accessions per annum
- To gain an overview of the extent of cataloguing/editorial work that is required before existing catalogues can be networked, including a review of the implementation of ISAD(G).
- To review the general adequacy of storage space and whether it is broadly in line with BS5454.
- To gain a general overview of preservation and conservation needs including the adequacy of packaging, the volume of material in need of significant work and/or unfit for production.
- To gain an overview of the adequacy of reading room space and office accommodation.
- The survey is to be carried out over a four month period and the final report due by the end of September 1997.